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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday October 16 2007 - (813)

Tuesday October 16 2007 edition
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In U.S., Drought-Stricken South Facing Tough Options
2007-10-16 03:42:31
For the first time in more than 100 years, much of the U.S. Southeast has reached the most severe category of drought, climatologists said Monday, creating an emergency so serious that some cities are just months away from running out of water.

In North Carolina, Gov. Michael F. Easley asked residents Monday to stop using water for any purpose “not essential to public health and safety.” He warned that he would soon have to declare a state of emergency if voluntary efforts fell short.

“Now I don’t want to have to use these powers,” Easley told a meeting of mayors and other city officials. “As leaders of your communities, you know what works best at the local level. I am asking for your help.”

Officials in the central North Carolina town of Siler City estimate that without rain, they are 80 days from draining the Lower Rocky River Reservoir, which supplies water for the town’s 8,200 people.

In the Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area, which has more than four million people, worst-case analyses show that the city’s main source of water, Lake Lanier, could be drained dry in 90 to 121 days.

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Verizon Released Data Without Court Orders
2007-10-16 03:39:05
Verizon Communications, the nation's second-largest telecom company, told congressional investigators that it has provided customers' telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005.

The company said it does not determine the requests' legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.

In an Oct. 12 letter replying to Democratic lawmakers, Verizon offered a rare glimpse into the way telecommunications companies cooperate with government requests for information on U.S. citizens.

Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this "two-generation community of interest" for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government's quest for data.

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Bush Administration-India Nuclear Deal May Be Near Collapse
2007-10-16 03:38:15
Internal Indian opposition appears to scuttle pact for civil nuclear cooperation pushed by Bush.

A controversial nuclear deal between the United States and India appears close to collapse after the Indian prime minister told President Bush Monday that "certain difficulties" will prevent India from moving forward on the pact for the foreseeable future.

The main obstacle does not involve the specific terms of the agreement but rather India's internal politics, including fears from leftist parties that India is moving too close to the United States, according to officials and experts familiar with the deal. Besieged over the past two months by growing opposition to nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated over the weekend that he would rather save his coalition government than the nuclear pact.

"What we have done with the U.S., it is an honorable deal, it is good for India, and it is good for the world," said Singh  Saturday. "But we are in the realm of politics, and within our coalition, there are differing perceptions."

Neither government appeared eager to announce the setback to what had been billed as one of the Bush administration's biggest foreign policy achievements. India's only official pronouncement was tucked at the bottom of a seven-paragraph news release on the Indian Embassy Web site outlining a telephone conversation Monday between Singh and Bush.

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Oil Closes Above $86 A Barrel
2007-10-15 17:07:11

Oil prices smashed above $86 a barrel Monday as tensions in the Middle East and uncertainties about the American economy pushed prices into record territory.

Light, sweet crude futures for November delivery closed at $86.13 a barrel, up 2.9 percent, its highest nominal level since oil contracts began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983. At these levels, oil is bridging the gap with its historic record once adjusted for inflation. In the early 1980s, oil reached about $40 a barrel, or around $100 in today’s dollars.

Despite questions over the direction of the American economy, oil traders have ignored the risks weighing on energy markets. Instead, traders have focused on the same factors that have driven up prices in recent years: global energy demand that keeps defying expectations, tight oil supplies and an energy system that has little spare capacity to cushion sudden shortages.

The latest surge for oil prices came after Turkey threatened to invade northern Iraq this weekend to chase rebel Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The military tensions on the Turkish border adds a new flash point in a volatile region that holds the bulk of the world’s oil reserves. Iraq is the third-largest holder of known reserves, after Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Turkish Government Asks Parliament To Let Its Troops Enter Iraq
2007-10-15 17:05:25
Turkey's cabinet asked parliament on Monday for permission to launch attacks on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq  that Washington fears could destabilize one of the most peaceful areas of the country.

Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said Turkey still hoped military action against the Kurds, who use the mountainous region as base for attacks inside Turkey, would not be needed.

"But the most painful reality of our country, our region, is the reality of terror," he told a news conference.

Iraq urged Turkey not to resort to military action on its territory, calling on it to be "wise and patient".

"The Iraqi government calls on the Turkish government to pursue a diplomatic solution and not a military solution to solve the (problem) of terrorist attacks which our dear neighbor Turkey has witnessed from the PKK," said Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

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AOL To Eliminate 2,000 Jobs
2007-10-15 17:04:45

AOL plans to reduce its workforce by 2,000 employees starting tomorrow, according to a e-mail sent by chief executive Randy Falco to employees this morning.

The Dulles, Virginia-based company said last month it plans to move its headquarters to New York as it tries to focus more on advertising instead of on Internet service subscriptions. At the time, Falco said he would not rule out layoffs, noting that the change in strategy would require shifting resources within the company.

The company employs 10,000 people worldwide, with approximately 4,000 based in Dulles. The layoffs will affect about 1,200 employees in the United States, including about 750 in the Washington, D.C., region. The cuts are expected to be completed over the next couple of months.

"This is in many ways the most difficult step, but a necessary one," Falco wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the Washington Post. "Everyone impacted by this reduction deserves our thanks and respect for their contributions to the company."

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Air Force Official Dies In Apparent Suicide
2007-10-15 16:58:31
The second-highest ranking member of the Air Force’s procurement office was found dead of an apparent suicide at his Virginia home Sunday, Air Force and police officials said Monday.

The official, Charles D. Riechers, 47, came under scrutiny by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month after the Air Force arranged for him to be paid $13,400 a month by a private contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, while he awaited review from the White House of his appointment as principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition. He was appointed to the job in January.

The Washington Post reported on Oct. 1 that the contractor, Commonwealth Research, registered as a nonprofit organization in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, paid Riechers for two months as a senior technical adviser, though he did no work for the company.

“I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I.” Riechers told the Post. “I got a paycheck from them.”

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Heart Patients Warned As Maker Halts Sale Of Heart Implant Part
2007-10-15 03:44:42
The nation’s largest maker of implanted heart devices, Medtronic, said Sunday that it was urging doctors to stop using a crucial component in its most recent defibrillator models because it was prone to a defect that has caused malfunctions in hundreds of patients and may have contributed to five deaths.

The faulty component is an electrical “lead,” or a wire that connects the heart to a defibrillator, a device that shocks faltering hearts back into normal rhythm. The company is urging all of the roughly 235,000 patients with the lead, known as the Sprint Fidelis, to see their doctors to make sure it has not developed a fracture that can make the device misread heart-rhythm data.

Such a malfunction can cause the device to either deliver an unnecessary electrical jolt or fail to provide a life-saving one to a patient in need. In most cases, the defibrillators can be reprogrammed without surgery to minimize the problem.

Medtronic estimated that about 2.3 percent of patients with the Fidelis lead, or 4,000 to 5,000 people, would experience a lead fracture within 30 months of implantation. Those patients will require a delicate surgical procedure to replace the lead, said experts.

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Washington Post Correspondent Salih Saif Aldin Killed In Iraq
2007-10-15 03:43:52
Correspondent's death adds to list of at least 118 journalists already killed in Iraq while on duty.

On Sunday afternoon, Salih Saif Aldin set out for one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods. He knew exactly where to go. He nodded, smiled, grabbed his camera. There was nothing he needed to say.

Saif Aldin always came back - from death threats, from beatings, from kidnappings, from detentions by American soldiers, from the country's most notorious and deadly terrain - but on Sunday he didn't. The 32-year-old Iraqi reporter in the Washington Post's Baghdad bureau was shot once in the forehead in the southwestern neighborhood of Sadiyah. He was the latest in a long line of reporters, most of them Iraqis, to be killed while covering the Iraq war. He was the first for the Washington Post.

"The death of Salih Saif Aldin in the service of our readers is a tragedy for everyone at the Washington Post. He was a brave and valuable reporter who contributed much to our coverage of Iraq," said Leonard Downie, Jr., executive editor of the Post. "We are in his debt. We grieve with his family, friends, fellow journalists and everyone in our Baghdad bureau."

At 2 p.m., Saif Aldin took a taxi from the Post's office to Sadiyah to interview residents about the sectarian violence there between Shiite militiamen and Sunni insurgents. It was his third trip to the embattled neighborhood within a week. For him, there were no red zones, no green zones, no neighborhoods out of bounds.

Two hours later, a man picked up Saif Aldin's cellphone and called a colleague at the Post to say he had been shot.

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Oil Price Hovers Under $84 Record Price
2007-10-15 03:43:01
Oil prices were little changed on Monday, hovering within sight of last week's record high of $84.05 a barrel as mounting tension between Turkey and Iraq added to a rally fueled by winter supply worries and dollar weakness.

U.S. light, sweet crude for November delivery rose 5 cents to $83.74 a barrel by 2:24 a.m. EDT. Prices rose for a fourth day on Friday, hitting a new intra-day record high, after the Kurdistan Workers Party said it would move back into Turkey from northern Iraq and target the Turkish government.

London Brent crude fell 17 cents to $80.38 a barrel.

Oil has remained above $80 for most of the past month after soaring from below $70 in mid-August, fueled by a mixture of supply concerns ahead of winter and record lows for the U.S. dollar, which has driven speculators to buy oil as a hedge.

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Millions Of Homeowners In Northern States Losing Policies As Home Insurers Canceling Them Over Storm Fears
2007-10-16 03:42:07
It is 1,200 miles from the coastline where Hurricane Katrina touched land two years ago to the neat colonial-style home here in Garden City, New York, where James Gray, a retired public relations consultant, and his wife, Ann, live. But this summer, Katrina reached them, too, in the form of a cancellation letter from their home-insurance company.

The letter said that “hurricane events over the past two years” had forced the company to limit its exposure to further losses; and that because the Grays’ home on Long Island was near the Atlantic Ocean - it is 12 miles from the coast and has been touched by rampaging waters only once, when the upstairs bathtub overflowed - their 30-year-old policy was “nonrenewed,” or canceled.

The Grays signed with a new company, but their case attracted the attention of consumer advocates and, in turn, the New York insurance commissioner, Eric R. Dinallo.

Dinallo’s sharp rebuke last month of the Grays’ company, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, reflected a shift in how public officials view a new reality in the homeowners’ insurance business, say advocates.

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India's Tigers Threatened By Poaching And Population Spread
2007-10-16 03:38:50
Development, new law on tribal rights add to pressure.

With homemade muskets, Lakhan and his brothers tracked one of India's endangered Bengal tigers as it slunk along the forested trails and lakes of Ranthambhore National Park, not far from Lakhan's village. Then, under cover of night, one of them fired a bullet into the chest of the howling cat.

"Hunger," said the wiry Lakhan, pointing to his concave stomach, which was covered by a white lungi, or skirt-like wrap. "That's why I did it. That scenario hasn't changed much. My heart pounds when we kill a tiger. But we have pressures."

Lakhan has killed three tigers in recent years and has been in jail on and off for selling their thick yellow-and-black striped coats, as well as their bones, whiskers and even their glowing amber eyes. Each tiger has fetched him more money than he can earn in six months of farming sesame for its seeds. Lakhan is from the Mogya community, a poaching tribe whose people have hunted the giant felines for centuries here in the northern desert state of Rajasthan. 

Yet just as poaching ensures the Mogyas' survival, it might also ensure the tigers' extinction.

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Citigroup Profit Fell 57% In Third Quarter
2007-10-15 17:07:32
Citigroup, the global banking giant, said today that third-quarter profit dropped 57 percent after it faced heavy blows to its fixed-income and consumer businesses. The news helped send the stock market to a sharp decline in afternoon trading.

Citigroup’s setback was the latest sign of the damage on Wall Street from the subprime mortgage crisis and the resulting credit squeeze that developed over the summer. Some of the largest financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns, have had to write down significant portions of their loan portfolios and have announced layoffs in their lending units.

Concern that the financial system had not yet put the crisis behind it led Citigroup and two other big banks, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase,to announce an initiative Monday to insure liquidity in the credit markets. The plan, fostered by the Treasury Department, calls for the banks to finance a pool of short-term debt and to draw from it.

Earnings reports later in the week from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch will also be watched closely for a further reading on the financial upheaval.

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105-Foot Dinosaur Skeleton Found In Argentina's Patagonia Region
2007-10-15 17:05:43
Scientists work in Argentina have found the skeletal remains of what may be a large, new species of dinosaur.

The skeleton of what is believed to be a new dinosaur species - a 105-foot plant-eater that is among the largest dinosaurs ever found - has been uncovered in Argentina, scientists said Monday.

Scientists from Argentina and Brazil said the Patagonian dinosaur appears to represent a previously unknown species of Titanosaur because of the unique structure of its neck. They named it Futalognkosaurus dukei after the Mapuche Indian words for "giant" and "chief," and for Duke Energy Argentina, which helped fund the skeleton's excavation.

"This is one of the biggest in the world and one of the most complete of these giants that exist," said Jorge Calvo, director of paleontology center of National University of Comahue, Argentina, lead author of a study on the dinosaur published in the peer-reviewed Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Scientists said the giant herbivore walked the Earth some 88 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period.

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Iraq Demands Expulsion Of Blackwater USA, Compensation For Killings
2007-10-15 17:05:06
The Iraqi government has demanded that Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm that guards top U.S. diplomats in Iraq, be expelled from the country within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to the family of every civilian its employees are accused of killing last month, said Iraqi officials.

The demands are contained in a report prepared by Iraqi investigators probing the shooting in downtown Baghdad,  in which they said 17 Iraqis were killed after Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation. The findings were described by Iraqi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.

The Sept. 16 incident sparked widespread outrage across Iraq and prompted heightened scrutiny here and in the United States of shootings by foreign security firms that have left scores of Iraqis dead.

Anne E. Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, said she had not seen the report and hoped no decisions would be made until an investigation by the FBI has been completed. The company has said its guards opened fire after they came under attack.

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Nobel Prize For Economics Goes To U.S. Trio
2007-10-15 17:04:20
Americans Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin and Roger B. Myerson won the Nobel economics prize Monday for developing a theory that helps explain how sellers and buyers can maximize their gains from a transaction.

Hurwicz, 90, is the oldest Nobel winner ever, according to the academy. "I really didn't expect it," said the Moscow-born researcher, an emeritus economics professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The three winners "laid the foundations of mechanism design theory," which plays a central role in contemporary economics and political science, said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Essentially, the three men, starting in 1960 with Hurwicz, studied how game theory can help determine the best, most efficient method for allocating resources, said the academy. Their research has helped explain how incentives and private information affect decision-making procedures involved in economic transactions including, for example, what insurance polices will provide the best coverage without inviting misuse.

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Security Contractors' Status Is Questioned: Are They Unlawful Combatants?
2007-10-15 03:45:05
U.S. officials worry that firms like Blackwater USA could be considered unlawful combatants.

As the Bush administration deals with the fallout from the recent killings of civilians by private security firms in Iraq, some officials are asking whether the contractors could be considered unlawful combatants under international agreements.

The question is an outgrowth of federal reviews of the shootings, in part because the U.S. officials want to determine whether the administration could be accused of treaty violations that could fuel an international outcry.

The issue also holds practical and political implications for the administration's war effort and the image of the U.S. abroad.

If U.S. officials conclude that the use of guards is a potential violation, they may have to limit guards' tasks in war zones, which could leave more work for the already overstretched military.

Unresolved questions are likely to touch off new criticism of Bush's conduct of the unpopular Iraq war, especially given the broad definition of unlawful combatants the president has used in justifying his detention policies at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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U.S. Military: Al-Qaeda In Iraq Crippled
2007-10-15 03:44:21
Many officials caution of terrorist group's resilience.

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq. 

As the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.

"I think it would be premature at this point," a senior intelligence official said of a victory declaration over al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, as the group is known. Despite recent U.S. gains, he said, AQI retains "the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks." Earlier periods of optimism, such as immediately following the June 2006 death of AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air raid, not only proved unfounded but were followed by expanded operations by  the militant organization.

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Editorial: Iraqi Oil Spoils
2007-10-15 03:43:24
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Monday, October 15, 2007.

The quickening pace of oil deals between Kurdish regional leaders and foreign companies is another sign that Iraq is spinning out of control and the Bush administration has no idea how to stop it.

President Bush set enactment of a national oil law that centralizes development and ensures an equitable division of the profits as a key benchmark of progress. Iraq’s leaders, who have little interest in equity or reconciliation, have blithely ignored it. So the Kurds have taken matters into their own hands, signing nine legally questionable exploration deals with foreign companies.

The administration has complained that the deals “needlessly elevated tensions” between the Kurds and the central government. But it apparently hasn’t leaned very hard on the one American oil company involved, Hunt Oil of Dallas, which has close ties to the White House. Iraq’s oil ministry, meanwhile, has warned that the contracts will be either ignored or considered illegal.

We cannot blame the Kurds for wanting to get on with exploiting their region’s lucrative oil deposits for energy and for profit. While the rest of Iraq is convulsed in violence and politically paralyzed, the Kurdish-administered northeast is the one relatively peaceful region, with functioning schools and government, a separate army and booming business.

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